Briefing a marketing agency isn’t rocket science, but if the steam coming out of the ears of agency friends after a recent post I put up on LinkedIn was anything to go by, agencies are frequently on the receiving end of some pretty curly requests.
Since a strong brief delivers strong outcomes, we wanted to share the biggest bugbears we have as a content marketing agency when receiving client briefs.
If you’re thinking of briefing your marketing agency, take it from us, these are things your marketing agency wishes you’d stop doing and maybe we’re just the ones brave enough to say them.
1. Stop pretending you don’t have a budget
I have to be honest with you, in my decade of working across the government, big business, small business and now running my own business, I’ve never once met a client with a bottomless budget bank.
When an agency asks you for a budget, please remember they’re not doing it to max it out. When we ask clients for their budget expectations, it’s so we can provide you with the best product-to-budget fit.
Without sharing the budget, it’s the equivalent of briefing an interior designer to find you a sofa and then telling them you won’t be proceeding with their Jardan selection, because you have an IKEA budget.
While our content marketing is good, our mind-reading is not, so to deliver an outcome, we (and any agency you’re working with) need to know what price range t they’re working within.
Do: Even if you don’t have a budget in mind, give your agency a budget window. Knowing you’ve got $15-25k gives us a lot more to work from than mistakenly thinking you have $150k and quoting outrageously.
2. Using unrealistic timeframes
In any agency there are usually two particularly manic times of the year – one is the lead up to Christmas and the other is before 30 June.
With each peak period comes deadlines, some sensible like “we need to close down the books for the financial year” and others a little more unrealistic “we need it before Christmas” as though the world stops turning on 25 December.
If you’re not going to be using the content between 20 December and the second week of January, it pays to give your agency an extra ten days to finesse it. And trust me, they’ll want it.
Do: Tell your agency your critical deadlines. While your agency would prefer not to be working over Christmas as it’s usually their only big break for the year, they usually have some team on-call for the Christmas period for campaigns (like Boxing Day Sales) that don’t shut down. Rather than rush your agency to the Christmas finish line, give them the option of filing in the first week of January if it’s applicable for your campaign.
3. Setting KPIs that don’t match the brief
As an agency owner, I love to set KPIs as they’re the fastest way to get ourselves and the client aligned.
It’s in our best interest to do a good job and we want to smash your KPIs so hard that you never look so much as left or right to other agencies because we’re so damn good at what we do.
But I have to be clear, where we (or any agency for that matter) can’t perform is where the brief and the KPIs (aka what we’re measured in) don’t match. We’ve been on the receiving end of KPIs for organic social media to have ‘a million followers’, which isn’t just impossible it’s downright irresponsible to promise.
Do: Get clear on what you’re asking the agency to do and ask if the KPIs align. If you’re not sure where to start with setting benchmarks or KPIs, ask your agency. Agencies have to do it all the time and they’re probably in the best position to do it.
4. Asking an agency to create the marketing plan for the project … to win the job
I don’t know about you, but RFQ’s these days seem to be asking more and more of agencies competing for the work.
One that’s been grinding my gears lately is the request to build out a detailed marketing plan for the whole project, before you’ve even won it. One RFQ we faced this year, even asked for a three-year marketing plan (my first thought: do people even plan beyond 12 months with COVID anymore?) to win the project.
To me, asking the marketing agency for their full marketing plan is the equivalent of asking a builder to build your bathroom before you decide to go ahead with their quote or not.
While you want to see evidence of strategic thinking and creative concepts, a pitch session with the right minds in the room where the agency has the opportunity to ask more questions, tease out the real outcomes and present a couple of creative directions, lands in a much better place than a static marketing plan just to win the job.
Do: If you’re in the position to do so, invite agencies in to help design the brief rather than just respond to it.
5. Not providing feedback at the end of the quote phase
We understand procurement is exhausting for all involved, but as a small business when we’ve dedicated a team member to compile our response for over a week, we really like to hear more feedback than a templated “unfortunately you were unsuccessful at this time” email.
As an agency we like to improve our performance one tender or response at a time and your feedback is invaluable to our ongoing performance.
While most clients provide access to feedback, unfortunately, many don’t.
Do: Allocate resources not just to reading RFQs but providing feedback on them too.
Agency friends, what else have I missed?
By Hannah Statham
Hannah Statham is The Boss at Media Mortar. She’s a heavy weight wordsmith, punching with puns, analogies and metaphors that leave readers wanting more. When she’s not refreshing her Instagram feed, you’ll find Hannah searching for the best gnocchi in town.